Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review of 'Paddington'

A very liberal film which makes much of Paddington's status as an immigrant...he's not really a refugee or an asylum seeker, but parallels are drawn between him and Mr Gruber's experience as a Kindertransport kid, and there's a lot about the need for people to be generous to the displaced and homeless. There's not much about what actually happens to people (or presumably bears) who enter the country illegally; the Brown family just adopts him, and that's that.

Pretty much every British comedy or character actor you can think of is in it, and seem to be having fun. There are lots of cinematic jokes and parodies of other films. I rather thought that Nicole Kidman as the wicked museum curator was reprising her role as Mrs Coulter in The Golden Compass, though she's not quite as menacing here.

Watched in two halves: in the Middle Floor at Springhill via legitimate iTunes download on someone else's laptop and the Springhill projector, and then at home via informally obtained download and Chromestream from my Linux laptop to the Chromecast in our TV. The second of these turned out to be much easier than the first - it took about 40 minutes to get the legitimate version working...first two DVDs didn't work in any of the available DVD players, and then there were issues with getting the mac laptop to talk to the projector.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review of 'The Corruption of Capitalism'

A bit of a disappointment, in that the ideas in the book are better than the book itself.  I've heard Guy Standing talking about the ideas on the radio, and he was very good. It rather feels like the publisher told him to make it longer, so he crow barred in some other stuff about how shit everything is - how the political system is broken, how platform capitalism is turning lots of people into pure labour-for-hire...I don't disagree with any of it, and he makes his points well with lots of examples; but it distracts from the main argument, which is about how 'free' markets are anything but.

Capital isn't interested in free markets or competition, and does everything it can to structure and seek out markets where competition is weak or non-existent - through licensed monopolies from the state and/or through patents and copyright. Indeed, I think too many people on the left believe the neo-Liberalism is about rolling back the state, as it pretends to be, when actually the state is crucial for assembling the markets (think the NHS or benefits system) so that they can be exploited, and for enforcing and protecting the monopolies.

There is also a sense in which the relentless barrage of numbers become a bit wearing - an infographic or two to break up the page might have been nice.

Overall this is a good and important book, buried inside a slightly less good one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review of 'Blade Runner 2049'

Except not really a review, just a note about my personal impressions. Other people have done so much reviewing, and I think I couldn't do this properly unless I read all their reviews, and I don't have the time or the energy.

I quite liked it, or at least I quite liked the way it looked. It was a visual treat, and continued the combination of science fiction and noir that the first film pioneered. Others have said that the plot was flimsy, and I rather think the opposite - there was too much plot, including some elements that felt crowbarred in for the next sequel. I suspect the plot had holes or inconsistencies in it (like, either replicants can have children or they can't, but either way it's not a religious miracle, it's a designed-in feature that ought to be in the documentation), but again I can't be bothered to list or work them out...it wasn't really about the plot. Some others have commented on Ryan Gosling's acting - not much too say here; he has one fewer expression than Harrison Ford, I'd say. I liked the performances of the other actors, particularly the women.

I noted a few bits of product placement...we had a corporate logo for Diageo, and Deckart is drinking Johnnie Walker whisky; Black Label, which presumably he's been drinking for thirty years while holed up in the decaying hotel in Vegas. And Sony, and some others.

Oh, and the baddie who makes the robots that go wrong is called Wallace - wouldn't it be great if this was a homage to the Wallace who hangs out with Gromit? He also made robots that went wrong, more than once.

I noted that the urban dystopia is now aligned to a rural dystopia - we see a truly horrendous 'farm' early on the film. Hating cities (except perhaps New York) is a mainstream trope of American cinema, and often nature and rurality is counterposed to this. Not here.

I also noted some cyrillic writing early on, and also an add that seemed to feature 'Product of CCCP' - has the USSR been revived by 2049? In any case this made me realise that for Americans, part of what was dystopian about the original Blade Runner was the presence of so many different nationalities in the future LA, especially Asians - Neo LA looks a lot like Neo-Tokyo. Well, by 2017 the presence of Russian script is further evidence that everything has gone to the dogs.

Finally, the ruined Vegas hotel where Deckart is hiding out looked a lot like some of the actual derelict hotels featured in some 'ruin porn' movies about Detroit.

Ultimately a good experience, though 'enjoyable' doesn't seem quite right.

Watched at the Vue Cinema in Stroud...worth doing for the volume and depth of the sound!


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Review of 'Paterson'

A strong candidate for the most boring film I have ever seen. Very little happens. There are few 'quirky' touches but mainly it's just everyday life, work, breakfast, walking the not-very-nice dog. Everybody in the film is quite nice, from girlfriend who imagines herself to be talented and turns out to be quite talented, and co-workers, and guys down at the bar...

The central character is a bus-driver poet, quirkily called Paterson which is the same name as the town. We see him writing some poems, all of which seemed so awful to me that I thought his lack of talent was the point of the film...but it wasn't, they are actual poems written by an actual poet. The one good poem in the film, attributed to a little girl that the bus driver meets, was actually written by director Jim Jarmusch.

Watched at Landsdown film club in Stroud.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Review of Blade Runner (Final Cut)

I watched this again after a long interval in preparation for the new sequel. Surprised to find how little I remembered, though some of this may have been due to the fact that I'd previously watched a different 'cut' - at least that's what I kept telling myself as unfamiliar scenes unfolded, but I may have just forgotten.

The plot turned out to be much simpler than I remembered, despite the subtleties about androids who may not know that they are (possibly including Deckard himself), but I don't recall it being quite so violent. I later watched the 'deleted scenes' available on YouTube, and found that most of it was voiceover explaining what was going on to presumed dopier US cinema audiences.

Anyway, it was still enjoyable, though much slower than a comparable film would be nowadays. Made in 1982, the future still looks credible, despite the Prestel-like screens (no web in 1982) and phone booths. Very atmospheric, largely delivered via constant drizzle, a largely Asian Los Angeles and lots of derelict and deserted buildings, including some that look like they were straight from the actually-derelict Detroit.

Watched in the Midde Floor at Springhill via laptop and informal distribution.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review of 'Y tu Mama Tambien'

An odd mixture of frat/fart movie and social-political critique...is this the way to get a political movie made in Mexico, or is it an attempt to add a layer of 'quality' content on to what's essentially a film about two teenage boys fucking their girlfriends, an older woman, and each other?

I'm not sure. Some of the bolted on social critique is heavy handed - the voice-overs that tell us how the poor family the boys encounter will have a dire future - but in other places it's done with a good deal of subtlety - the checkpoints on the road that the relatively affluent boys just cruise through but where poorer Mexicans are being given a hard time. And the illustration of the class differences between the boys, despite their friendship and common interests (fucking, drugs, and masturbation) is very well done.

One scene puzzled me...eventually the boys have a gay experience, when the older woman takes them both to bed and then sort of slips away. In the morning they awake to find themselves entwined and are shocked. Soon after their friendship ends. But is this homosexual dimension to their friendship hinted at in the scene in which they wank together from the diving board at a deserted luxurious swimming pool? I have read that teenage boys of all sexual orientations, not just gay ones, engage in collective wanking, but it never formed part of my experience.

Watched in the Common House at Springhill via laptop and cable to projector, having obtained the film via informal distribution.

Review of 'Carrie Pilby'

A film that turned out to be better than expected...about a young woman living alone in New York who is extremely intelligent (and a bit of a prig about other people's morals) and therefore finds life difficult and unhappy. Her therapist gives her tasks to complete (acquire a pet, etc) and she resists then complies, and so ends up engaging with life and people. Reconciliation with absent dad, closure on near-abusive episode with college professor, etc.

I note in passing that in this film, as in most others, that it depicts everyone living in apartments that they could only afford if they were millionaires. I also note that the lead, Bel Powley, reminds me very much of the way Alexandra Shulman looked when she was the flatmate of a friend at Sussex University in the late 1970s.

Watched via Netflix and Chromecast - the first almost good film I've watched on Netflix for ages.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review of 'Arrival'

A rather good science fiction movie, with most of the emphasis on plot and character rather than special effects. It's about the difficulties posed by first contact with a clearly superior species...and there is a time-travel/time-perception dimension to it that is really rather well done. Some of the early parts linger a bit on the military preparations, which are supposed to be tense but I found a bit slow, but this is more than made up for by an intellectual female lead who doesn't have to do some special 'female' version of clever - she is just cleverer than most of the male characters around her. Extra points too for an internationalist dimension (humans need to overcome their national differences to solve a big problem) and for acknowledging the value of expertise rather than celebrating some ordinary guy who just happens to...

And extra points too for at least mentioning, and even trying to explain, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which actually becomes an important plot element. Don't remember hearing about that since my undergraduate days, so hooray.

Watched on TV via Chromecast, having been obtained via informal distribution network.